Thursday, March 28, 2019

Birthday Interview with Samuel Ramey

Samuel Ramey as Attila (left)
He has been referred to as the original barihunk by some, for leading the way in sexy portrayals of the low voice repertory. His video of Boito's Mefistofele from the San Francisco Opera has become a cult classic with opera aficionados. He continued his sexy shirtless portrayals as Attila that were not only sexy, but set the vocal standard to this day.

His amazing vocal flexibility and range has allowed his to sing roles ranging from Argante in Handel’s Rinaldo to the title role in Bartok’s Bluebeard’s Castle. His repertoire includes the florid pasages of Handel, the bel canto roles of Bellini and Donizetti, the great baritone roles of Verdi and Puccini, great American operas and even many of the great Russian and French bass roles.

Rather than post our annual birthday tribute, we asked the legendary bass to answer a few questions for readers.

1. You were considered a "barihunk" before Francesca Zambello coined the phrase, singing both Attila and Mefistofele shirtless.  Did you ever imagine that baritones and basses would become the sex symbols of opera? 

Ramey: Generally speaking, most baritones and basses are "sexier" than most tenors.  So I can‘t say I‘m surprised.

2. You're now singing two comprimario roles at the Dallas Opera. What draws you to the stage when most singers are enjoying retirement? 

Ramey: I feel that I still have something to offer as a performer and I still love being on the stage.  I‘ve been trying to reinvent myself but it‘s not easy.  I appreciate the Dallas Opéra for giving me this opportunity.

3. Your Attila and Mefistofele are considered definitive interpretations by most opera aficionados. Were these your favorite roles. Which other roles did you love?

Ramey: Attila and Mefistofele were certainly two of my favorite roles, but I have quite a few favorites.  Others would be Mephistopheles in Faust and Damnation de Faust, Mozart‘s Figaro and Don Giovanni, Nick Shadow in Rake's Progress, Filippo II in Don Carlo, Bertram in Robert le Diable, Boris Godunov.

4. What role did you never get to sing that you would have loved to perform? 

Ramey: I‘ve always loved the early Verdi operas.  One I always hoped to sing was Silva in Ernani, but the opportunity never presented itself.

5. Karita Mattila just posted on our Twitter feed that Placido Domingo was her best stage kiss. Who was yours?

Ramey: I didn‘t have many stage kiss opportunities but I‘d have to say that my best stage kiss was Marie McLaughlin.


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